The Consultant and the Consulting Process

In your job search as a project manager, you may have noticed that some of the best opportunities are labeled as consulting. Lucky you, you’ve landed an interview for one of these roles. In preparation, you have polished your resume, honed your interviewing skills, researched the company, assimilated the knowledge and expertise of your financial recruiter at Wall Street Services, and so on. As you’re preparing to impress the hiring manager, you may want to consider something else – the meaning of the word consultant.

The job you are seeking may or may not have the word consultant in the title, but if you’re applying for a project-based role, you should consider yourself to be a consultant. If you look up the word in any basic dictionary, the definition of consultant is an expert or professional who gives advice and services.

Go a step further and think about the word consulting. Dana Gaines Robinson has been very successful in the field of Performance Consulting and she defines consulting as “a synergistic process that maximizes the expertise of the consultant and the client.” To be successful, you need to think about the consulting process. You will be hired as the expert – you have skills in accounting, or business analytics, or project management, but you cannot be successful without the client’s knowledge and expertise of their company and its operations.

Consider the kind of consultant – client relationship your employer is interested in. Peter Block is well known for his work on consulting skills. In his classic 1981 book, Flawless Consulting, he defined three styles of consultant:

Pair-of-Hands Style – the client is generally in control of the decision-making.

Expert Style – the consultant is more in control of the process and the workflow.

Collaborative Style – client and consultant collaborate utilizing the knowledge and expertise of both in the partnership.

There are pros and cons to each style; however, generally speaking, you are likely to have a better chance of success if you work to build mutual respect and trust in a collaborative process. Think about the advantages and disadvantages of each consulting style as part of your preparation for your new role.

Listen for and ask questions that help reveal the type of working relationship the client prefers. Taking time to consider the consulting process will give you a better chance at achieving success in your new role.